Thomas Jefferson Papers
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To Thomas Jefferson from James Maxwell, with a List of Armed Vessels, 26 April 1781

From James Maxwell, with a List of Armed Vessels

Richmd: the 26th: of Aprl: 1781

A List of the Arm’d Vessels at Coxes dale with there Force and present Compliment of Men.

Tempest 16 Six pounders  6 Men. Complimt. 120 when Compt.
Jefferson 14 four pds: 23. do:  70
Renown 16 Six do: 23. do: 120
Apollo 18 Six do:  5. do: 120.
Willing Lass 12 four 13. do:  60
Wilks 12 do.  5. do:  60
Mars 8 four & Six pds:  3. do:  40
Guns 96 Men 78 Full Complimt: 590
No: of Men wanted 512
American Fabius perc’d for 18 Guns 120
Morning Star . . . do 12. do.  60

In conjunction with the Captains of the Vessels have fixed on the above place and this day expect they will be ranged in A Semicircle, haveing A Marsh on the So: Shore and an extensive plain on the No: Shore which there Canon will Command, and they being in want of Carteridg paper and some other stores which I shall immediately send them, and Barron Stuben, being at head quarters have sent A Copy of the Above Arangment to him this Morning from Osborns by an Officer.

I have the honour of being Your Excellency’s Most Obedt: Humble Servt.,

Jas. Maxwell

RC (Vi); addressed and endorsed.

Maxwell’s report was made in pursuance of the following order recorded in Va. Council Jour. description begins Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, ed. H. R. McIlwaine description ends , ii, 341, under date of 25 Apr.: “Baron Steuben having expressed a desire that all the public and private vessels within our power should be manned and sent down to attack the enemy’s shipping at City Point—The Board advise that, previous to the undertaking such an enterprise, Captain Maxwell should be requested to go down and examine our strength and that of the enemy and make report to the Executive and Baron Steuben.” On 24 Apr. Phillips and Arnold disembarked their troops at City Point (on the south side of the James at its junction with the Appomattox) and on the following day marched them into action at Petersburg. The remnants of the Virginia navy were at Coxes Dale (Coxendale, Coxesdale, Cox and Dale, named from the seat of the Osborne family and very frequently called “Osborne’s”) on the south side of the James about halfway between City Point and Richmond. Crossing the Appomattox and returning to the James from Petersburg, on the 27th, the British attacked the Virginia vessels with cannon and musket fire, and succeeded in capturing or destroying all of them. For a graphic account of this action, see John Graves Simcoe, Military Journal description begins John Graves Simcoe, Military Journal, New York, 1844 description ends , p. 198–201, whence is taken the accompanying illustration, Lt. G. Spencer’s “Sketch of the Action at Osburns, April 27th. 1781.” Another lively account, written many years later, is Richard O’Brien’s letter to Andrew Monroe, Feb. 1822, in Randall, Life description begins Henry S. Randall, The Life of Thomas Jefferson description ends , ii, 324–5.

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